State and Gorham (copy)

A rendering of a proposed rapid transit station to be built in the 200 block of State Street. State Street business owners say the new designs are an improvement, but don't address their bigger concerns about buses on the street.

As a long-term and current Madison resident who has difficulty walking, I would like to respond to Betty Harris Custer's Nov. guest column, "Support BRT, but keep terminals off State Street."

Harris Custer uses many qualifying adjectives in her column, such as "virtually equally accessible," and "virtually every other person I talk to in Madison agree ... that we should begin discussions to make an almost universally preferred solution." I would like to emphasize that "virtually equally accessible" is not the same as "equally accessible," and that removing buses and bus stops from State Street would mean no accessibility for many. For example, I walk with a cane and am unable to walk even short distances.

Neither Harris Custer nor anyone else in favor of the removal of State Street buses and bus stops has spoken to me nor, I imagine, to those who see the necessity of these stops. For example, others have pointed out the danger in moving buses and bus stops off State Street. Both Johnson and Gorham streets have increased traffic, fewer street lights and fewer pedestrian crossings. I have already heard some of my friends speak of "close calls" with traffic on these streets.

Imagine an adult with children or someone else with or without limitations hurrying to cross either Johnson or Gorham to board a bus. It seems to me that this would be an accident just waiting to happen. I am extremely grateful that Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway understands the potential for danger at these proposed sites and remains committed to having bus stops on State Street. While there would only be two bus stops on the street, these stops would allow me access.

Harris Custer also wrote that she is "appalled that the State Street and Downtown stakeholders of business and building owners have been treated with little respect for their desire to keep these terminals, if not the buses themselves, off the street," and goes on to say, "we should be helping them as they seek to revitalize and reinvent the street."

Like so many others, including those businesses and building owners supporting removal of State Street buses and bus stops, Harris Custer does not make the connection that the very purpose of buses is to transport customers to such places. Removal of such stops would prohibit access to these places. Those who are adamantly refusing to recognize this reality are at the same time pleading for more customers.

In response, many of us past, present and potentially future customers have decided to no longer patronize these businesses.

Harris Custer also holds that these "business owners, who are themselves struggling and are diverse in makeup, have no desire to keep BRT riders, whoever they are, from their shops, restaurants and buildings." While Harris Custer frames this as "unfortunate that a racial overtone has been injected in these discussions," she apparently does not include people with physical or other challenges, like me, among the "BRT riders, whoever they are." Her lack of inclusion indicates that she, the business owners, the restaurants and shops are ignorant that they are indeed preventing some BRT riders from accessing those very entities.

Harris Custer concludes with more qualifiers. She writes, "virtually every person I talk to in Madison agrees ... that we should begin discussions to make an almost universally preferred solution." Again, "virtually every person" is not the same as "every person." The word "virtual" seemingly allows Harris Custer to believe, incorrectly, that everyone agrees with her and ignores those who see the matter differently.

Again, "an almost universally preferred solution" is not the same as "a universally preferred solution." The latter would include and address everyone's needs, as Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway has done with her commitment to two State Street bus stops.

Joan Downs is a freelance writer living in Madison.

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